Analyzing what 3-on-3 overtime could bring to the NHL

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bluespreds-shootout.jpgThe great part about the NHL’s research and development camp is that it’s sparked debate amongst anyone with a vested interest in the game. Of the many things experimented and tweaked through the two days of the camp, one of the more intriguing ones was how settling games that go to overtime is handled. Of the overtime tweaks that were handled, going from a 4-on-4 overtime to a 3-on-3 overtime to a 2-on-2 overtime with different time lengths to each period was something that was done.

James Mirtle of The Toronto Globe & Mail stepped up to discuss how going from five minutes of 4-on-4 to five minutes of 3-on-3 in a given evening of overtime play can work for the NHL, and has worked in another league.

On Friday, I had a great conversation on the subject with Shawn Mullin, who calls play-by-play for the Trail Smoke Eaters in the BCHL (Junior A). In that league, they’ve already adopted some 3-on-3 play in overtime, playing 4-on-4 for five minutes and then 3-on-3 for another five if the game is still scoreless.

As a result of dropping down to only six skaters on the ice, Mullin said it creates a high number off odd-man chances and scoring opportunities. Almost every single game is settled after 70 minutes of play.

So much so that there were only seven ties in 510 games played in the BCHL last season. (The league has yet to adopt the shootout.)

The BCHL is obviously a vastly different league than the NHL, including the fact that it’s higher scoring (7.26 goals per game compared with 5.53), but the numbers for OT alone are interesting. Sixteen per cent of BCHL games went to extra time last season and more than 90 per cent of those were decided within the 10 minutes.

First of all, the BCHL is a low-level junior league in Canada so scoring numbers are going to be much higher there than you’ll see amongst professionals. The results that league has seen, however, creates a great scientific setting to show the success they’ve had in getting results that have kept that league from seeing tie games and what could, perhaps, see the NHL get away from shootouts.

Of course with all these truly great and imaginative ideas coming out about how to make the shootout less relevant, this is all avoiding the elephant in the room of how broken the NHL’s point system is. Having it so that games settled in regulation are worth fewer points in the standings than games that reach overtime is the special brand of crazy that brings critics of the NHL out of the woodwork and makes fans of the game pull their hair out.

Then again, that may not matter to the NHL as long as it helps keep teams artificially afloat in the playoff races each year and stake a claim to a “winning season” in spite of not being close to being a playoff team.

Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

(Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.

King Leon: Draisaitl collects four points vs. Ducks to give Oilers a Game 1 win

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So far, the Edmonton Oilers had been showing that they can win tight, low-scoring playoff games. And then the third period of Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks happened.

The two teams entered the final frame tied 1-1, with smaller breaks and bounces being the story. Then just about everything happened in the third, with Leon Draisaitl guiding the Oilers to a 5-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

Draisaitl ended up with a goal and three assists, extending his point streak to three games (seven points during that span).

He wasn’t the only Oilers player to raise some eyebrows, and actually, the other two starring members were a lot more surprising. Mark Letestu seemed to make the early difference with two power-play goals, while low-scoring defenseman Adam Larsson found the net twice, including on the game-winner.

Phew, that’s a lot to absorb, right? This video captures the wildest scoring stretch of that period, even if there would be more:

While Connor McDavid hasn’t been bad, he’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – so far in the Oilers’ run, and that was mostly true on Wednesday. He ended up with a mere secondary assist in this one,

Yet, that might just be part of the good news for the Oilers. They advanced after McDavid had spotty series against the Sharks, and they just gave the Ducks their first postseason loss of 2017 with Draisaitl and others stealing the headlines.

Things got nasty at the end of this game, with key Ducks such as Ryan Getzlaf being prominently involved. Such moments make it clear that Anaheim isn’t likely to bow out of this one easily (and perhaps not gracefully?) but that should only make for a captivating Game 2.

That Game 2 airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; you can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)